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Bearing an Hourglass
Piers Anthony
Peter the Great: His Life and World
Robert K. Massie
A Curse Dark As Gold - Audio Library Edition
Elizabeth C. Bunce
The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel
Neil Gaiman, Neil Gaiman
Les Misérables
Victor Hugo, Isabel Florence Hapgood
In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin
Erik Larson
Healing Trauma
Peter A. Levine
Tess Gerritsen's Rizzoli & Isles 8 Book Bundle: The Surgeon, The Apprentice, The Sinner, Body Double, Vanish, The Mephisto Club, The Keepsake, Ice Cold
Tess Gerritsen
Written in Red - Anne Bishop Wow. Just wow. I've gotten pretty invested in urban fantasy over the last five years but my true love is fantasy strait up. Some call in heroic fantasy, some call it sword and sorcery, some call it woo-woo. Whatever you call it I grew up on it and it's the basis of my love of all things fantastical. Sadly this is a really bad time to love that kind of fantasy so I've moved on. Or at least I thought I had. Then something like Written in Red comes out and I fall all over myself with love for it. It has a large cast of interesting characters with complex motivations, a beautiful world that the first book barely touches the edges of, and a believable plot arc. It sucked me in so tight that I read all 400+ pages in one sitting. I'm a very happy, very satisfied fan of this series from now on.
Skinwalker - Faith Hunter The first half of Skinwalker doesn't have a lot going for it. The heroine is a laundry list of UF attributes, not really bring anything new to the table. There was no tension from the plot because it was a police procedural with Jane, the heroine, being an out of towner with no idea of the stakes involved. The romance elements were brought in early but neither of the guys really drew me in. As you might have guessed I considered just dropping it. I stuck it out and my dedication was rewarded. Roughly halfway through the world building opens up, Jane's past starts getting explored, and I got to know the secondary characters well enough to be invested in them. During the last quarter my dishes languished as I just had to finish. While it's still only a three star novel it's a very hopeful three star. I will be reading book 2 soon.
Fair Game  - Patricia Briggs 9/19/2013- Just read this for the THIRD time. This book has just passed from story on a page to comfort object.
Fortune's Folly - Deva Fagan Fortune's Folly reminds me of the tv movies that I watched on the Disney channel as a little kid. There's not a lot to it but what's there sparkles. I like Fortunata's journey to recognizing her own potential and thought the love story was really cute.
Lux Omnibus Volume 1 - Jalex Hansen Before I start I would like to thank the author for a copy of Lux Omnibus 1 in exchange for an honest review.
I have a lot of thoughts about Lux. I made it as far as the end of the first episode- a little tragic since I could have gotten that for free online. Here's a basic breakdown of things I liked, things I didn't, and the things that made me stop reading.
Loved: Hansen has a really great feel for her characters. The first two chapters about Hikari and Connor were so strong. They're personalities felt like someone I could actually know instead of a viewpoint. There were things that were likeable, things that weren't, and more. She also does scenes really, really well. The visuals that her descriptions evoked were just perfect.
Didn't like: How MANY characters their were. There are three main viewpoint characters in the first segment and a dozen or more supporting characters. That's in a roughly hundred page novella. Because Hansen did such a good job of characterizing them I could tell them apart. However the brain space that it took to do that kept me from ever really sinking into the story. So yeah. Then there's the plot. It really was a hot mess. It's a vague mutant-teenagers meets new age zen sort of thing. I felt like everything from the 90's-00's were thrown in, plus the kitchen sink. This lack of concreteness left me pretty puzzled when Hansen "uped" the tension with action scenes. I use irony quotes (that is now a thing according to me)because it's really hard to be invested in action based on a plot I'm confused by. It also diluted the power of her phenomenal scenes because there wasn't a strong plot to really tie them together.
What made me stop reading: When it comes to actual writing mechanics Hansen tried a lot of things that aren't the norm in mainstream YA publishing. The largest of these was a semi-omnipotent POV. A few others are the way she described events, the feel of the brain spaces that she was writing in, that sort of thing. I'm sorry if that didn't make sense but it's something that's hard to describe. At first I was delighted with the information I got this way but the novelty soon paled. Although I picked up what Halex wanted me to know much faster in the end it distanced me from her characters and her world. A lot of things that didn't make sense were "told" to me as a reader that I had to accept faith. When those things were contradictory to the internal world of the story or my own experience there was no way for me to understand why they had to be that way. I didn't watch the characters come to most of their conclusions, I was told about them. So if I was only told where do I mentally go back to when I'm confused about something? Nowhere. I'm sure I'm not explaining it right but this was the major issue that cause me to put down Lux for good.
Wizard Undercover - K.E. Mills I'm really getting into this series. Karen Miller, an author I'm otherwise ambivalent about, started a new brand with a Victorian-esque fantasy series that pushes the right buttons for me. Her first few books were good but they had tonal issues. With Wizard Undercover she really hit her stride and the elements and voice come together seamlessly. The stories still have a tendency to the overly wordy but nothing like her other books. I loved the characters and look forward to the next book.
Magic Bites -  Ilona Andrews An unusually inventive urban fantasy world.

Readthrough 2: My husband decided he wanted to read the series. Since it's become one of my favorites it wasn't hard to convince me to give it another shot! For some reason I didn't like Magic Bites as much as I liked the later ones. It was still excellent but a little clunky. Possibly because introducing characters and world elements isn't as interesting as building on them?
Reached - Ally Condie Confesssion moment: I really only skimmed the last bit of Reached. I was amazed by how much I didn't care about how it ended. It's too wimpy to abandon a series in the final stretch so I stuck with it. In the end it was worth it, just not by much. Condie still has an incredibly lyrical style of writing that's just lovely. It might have redeemed a shorter novel. Reached clocks in at 500 pages. A little long to be worried about poetry.
As I read this I started really wondering about all of these dystopian series that I love. One by one book three (usually the final book) just isn't cutting it. Sever was confusing, Reached was boring, and I still haven't been able to nerve myself up to reading Requiem. What's the deal? Disclaimer sticker: Pontification is upcoming. Abandon all hope ye who enter here.
I think the problem is with the basic premise. All of these series are based on the assumption that in a future society teenage girls will be told who to love. All of them make the heroine powerless. She is up against a behemoth that is a combination of government and social stigma on steroids. On paper this has really good series potential. The problem comes in the disconnect between what the story could be about and what it actually is about. More clearly, the problem is in between the love triangle (because it's always a hard choice) and changing the society the girls are born into. The first book is all about setting the stage so the problems don't really show to the reader. You can immerse yourself in the beautiful tragedy of the love story, learn about the society, and still have brain space to imagine who you'd cast as certain characters. Then book two comes along and it's less about the love story and more about the world and the heroine. Now you're really learning things. These books are often fantastic because they're getting into why the heroine makes the choices that she does. She becomes more empowered and her determinations actually moves the series. Since the reason we have protagonists is to, you know, protag that fits the bill. Then comes the third book. The third book must return to the themes of the first book. Since those themes are powerlessness and love confusion the heroine instantly loses the capacity to generate forward momentum. The last two authors I've read have solved the problem by introducing another character who has the skills necessary to solve the society problem. That leaves the heroine with the relationship problem, which she should be more then capable of resolving. Except she can't. Having been mostly helpless and most of her choices having been taken away means that the choice will always be bittersweet. In many ways she's settling on a guy after having been exhausted by the life she was forced to lead. She's incapable of doing anything that would mean a "happy" ending. It mostly goes something like this: Heroine is with the now-approved boy thinking of how in this new world they might have a chance.
This is how the last books can degenerate into an unsatisfying mess even when the author is insanely talented. The very genre they are writing is fighting against them. The society ending is unsatisfying because a character who is not the heroine is solving the problems. Yes it's more realistic but it doesn't really resonate with readers. We're sticking with these characters because we love them, not because we are really invested in The Society or any other incarnation of this totalitarian state. Then there comes the love story. Most of the time the two boys weren't really individual choices for the heroine to begin with. Both love interests are in some way stipulated by the world they live in. Meaning that either choice is in some way a surrender of the heroines agency. Instead of defying her world she is succumbing to it. Readers are confused because we've been waiting for this moment and it sucks. Authors are confusing because they're giving us what we ask for and we're still whining. Nothing is going to change unless there is a significant change in how this genre is written.
The good news is that the new dystopians I've read are mostly avoiding this formula. They're moving on to non love triangle based plots. That gives the heroine a lot more freedom to create a believable happy ending.
Poison - Bridget Zinn I was so excited about Poison I couldn't let it languish in my TBR pile. With only a few days passing from it's library pickup to finished it's set a land speed record! It was worth it. Poison was right up my ally with humor and a more traditional fantasy setting. I adored the characters and could and would read anything about them even if all they were doing was eating lunch. I liked how the romance was treated in the same way as the relationship between the heroine and her best friend. Both were made to be sweet and important to character development. My one big complaint is with the internal timeline. Zinn chose to withhold a lot of information that happened before the book started and parse it out throughout the later story. It wasn't a deal breaker but it did feel really odd.
A Brief History of Time - Stephen Hawking I loved this books as a young teen. It made science classes bearable to think that there might be something interesting at the end of them!
Pivot Point - Kasie West Wow. Pivot Point is simply incredible. Kasie West creates a world where there are special people that is so utterly believable I felt like I could look up from the pages and see it. It's not just that there were a lot of details that made sense. It was just so much a part of the world that it was almost boring. That sounds bad but it really is the height of good worldbuilding.
I loved the character of Addie. She was conscientious to a fault, an unusual trait in a heroine. Her voice was so strong even though West didn't make her snarky or silly. She was balanced out by the other characters who were all a mix of good and bad. Like with the worldbuilding the characters became people.
First thought is that I wish it was more fleshed out. I loved the story and felt there were a lot of things that I would have liked to know more about. Second thought is that it would have slowed the book down and made it worse. On other words, I love it so much I want more even though the story doesn't need anything more. Guess I'll have to wait for the sequel.
Queen Isabella: Treachery, Adultery, and Murder in Medieval England - Alison Weir Allison Weir is a very thorough researcher. She writes well and manages to spice up the often dull process of sorting through expense reports to find the truth about the lives of those 800 years dead. Not an easy task! It's still rough reading. If you love meticulously researched biographies about interesting women then this book is for you. If your not sure check out a sample. Really, it's a hit or miss kind of thing.
For me it was a hit. I actually found myself just reading it for fun. Considering I got it to be the broccoli in my reading diet that was beyond awesome. I found myself glued to the tragedy of a smart women trying and failing to find independence in midevil England. For those of you who hate sadness she doesn't end up nearly as bad off as many of her contemporaries. Trying to learn about historical women is not for the faint of heart. Those we hear about where those who ran afoul of their culture.
Mothership - Martin Leicht, Isla Neal I went back and forth a lot over the star rating on this one. The end was great enough to justify bumping it up:)
From it's purple cover to it's wacky premise Mothership sucked me in. Who doesn't want to read about a smart-mouthed teenage girl in space? Like all first impressions, the ideas I had about what Mothership would be was almost always wrong. It was better then I'd expected in the plot development. Most humorous books really struggle but Mothership stayed strong and tightly written. I also really liked the romance. I know why it wouldn't work for a lot of readers but for me it hit the right spots. The humor, which I have strangely left until last, was superb! Elvie had a hysterical voice and most of the characters matched her in fabulous eccentricity. I can't wait to see what new reactions the next book brings.
Where Mothership struggled were in things I hadn't really expected. In the beginning the authors were working so hard to be funny that I couldn't get a feel for the stakes involved. That made it hard to get invested in where the story was going. When there was the traditional space battle violence going on I really struggled with having some of the "good" guys die. I know, I know, that sounds really bad. It's just really upsetting to think about pregnant teenage girls dying, especially since most of them were days from giving birth. That's not going to bug most people but it really got under my skin.
I would still absolutely recommend Mothership to my friends with the caveat that it's not for everyone.
The Silver Hand - Stephen R. Lawhead Yay for unexpectedly good books! I was nervous starting the Silver Hand because it's predecessor the Paradise War was not my cup of tea. Turns out that Lawhead changed narrators, causing the biggest things that didn't work to be the biggest things that did. These stories are modern takes on strait celtic mythology. Having the narrator be of the world, understanding and accepting all of it, made me able to understand some of it's odder rhythms. I loved how all the characters had to journey to be come the best that they could be. I understand that in the next book the point of view shifts back to the original character. Hopefully it still works out!
Magic Rises -  Ilona Andrews My love for this book is ridiculous and any long review would look like unicorn vomit. I'll keep it short so that my inner fangirl stays in her cage. Magic rises is awesome. There you go.
The Last Echo - Kimberly Derting The Last Echo is an interesting transitional novel in a great series. I don't like everything that was done but I feel like it was all necessary to move Violet closer to being an adult.